Monday, October 19, 2015

October 19th, 1915

- Today Conrad achieves one of the great objectives of the war, one that however has nothing to do with the battlefield; instead it is marriage to his longtime mistress, Gina von Reininghaus.  They first met in 1907, when Conrad had become hopelessly smitten with Gina, who was less than half his age.  That Gina was already married with six children was but a mere inconvenience to Conrad, and he urged her to divorce her husband even as the two became lovers.  Conrad believed that if were victorious in war, his prestige and prominence would sweep aside all obstacles to making Gina his wife.  The current war, of course, has seen an unending succession of debacles, exposing his abysmal strategic judgement and the incompetence of the Austro-Hungarian army - the only victories he has achieved have occurred either due to Italian ineptitude (Cadorna is one of the few who legitimately rivals the Austro-Hungarian chief of staff in stubborness and detachment from the realities of war) or through German leadership.  What he has been unable to accomplish through battlefield glory has been accomplished through legal trickery: having divorced her husband, she has converted to Protestantism through a sham adoption by a sympathetic general, allowing her to skirt the Catholic Church's restrictions on divorce and remarriage.  Today's union legitimizes a relationship that Conrad and Gina had carried on openly and become the subject of mockery in Viennese social circles.  Unfortunately for the suffering Austro-Hungarian army, marital bliss does not confer martial ability on Conrad.

- In Serbia, on the western flank of the German XXII Reserve Corps the advance of 26th Division brings it into contact with the Austro-Hungarian 53rd Division of XIX Corps, held short of Obrenovac since its initial crossing of the Save River.  The arriving Germans turn the flank of the Serbian defenders, who pull back and allow the trapped Austro-Hungarians to finally break out.  To the east, the German 105th Division of IV Reserve Corps breaks through Serbian positions in the hills east of Lucić, suffering heavy casualties to overcome the fierce enemy resistance.  Meanwhile, however, the Germans score a coup when 232rd Reserve Regiment of 107th Division captures a Serbian patrol and an engineer detachment with orders to destroy the railway bridge over the Mlava River to the south.  Intelligence gleaned from the prisoners allow the Germans to capture the bridge intact, which will aid further advances.  To the south, while the Bulgarian 1st Army continues to be held up in the mountain passes east of Niš, to the south the Bulgarian 2nd Army has made much more progress, and today reaches the Vardar River at Veleš and cuts the railway linking Niš and Salonika.

- Both Russia and Italy formally declare war on Bulgaria today.

- The Serbian government has been pressuring General Sarrail to move his forces north from Salonika and concentrate them at Niš, to oppose the Bulgarians attacking from the east.  Sarrail knows that such a movement is impossible with the forces at his disposal, but recognizes that a gesture (beyond the deployment at the Strumica rail station) is needed.  As a result, he orders an infantry regiment and artillery battery, newly arrived at Salonika and from the French 57th Division, to move north to Krivolak, on the Salonika-Skopje railway thirty kilometres north of the Strumica rail station and south of Veleš.

The French advance from Salonika, October 1915.

- The Italian preliminary artillery bombardment along the lower Isonzo River is joined today by Italian aircraft, which this morning strike the Austro-Hungarian airbase at Aisovizza and begin airstrikes on marching columns and railway stations.  These raids are largely unopposed, as the Austro-Hungarian aircraft on the Italian Front are primarily designed for reconnaissance, not aerial combat.

- The government of Japan adheres to the Pact of London today, which had originally been signed on September 5th, 1914 by Russia, France, and Britain and by which they had pledged not to sign a separate peace with Germany.  Japan's agreement to remain in the war until the end does not, however, signal an expansion of the Japanese contribution to the war effort of the Entente.  Instead, the Japanese government hopes that adhering to the pact will secure it a seat at the peace conference at the end of the war and allow Japanese negotiators to secure the permanent transfer of captured German colonies in Asia and the Pacific to Japan.

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